Article by Tristian Goik.
Surprise! Today’s post is brought to you by the letter B, for the Berkshires, which is a large swath of land that exists beyond Manhattan. It is important to remember that East-coast animation can flourish outside of New York… Anyway if you find yourself at the Normal Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts, be sure to check out this great treasure horde of comics. [Through May 15th, party May 14th] It is refreshing to find an artist who doesn’t just decry the advent of digital animation, but actually uses computer tutorials to challenge himself as an artist.
Elwood Smith has a vast portfolio, including such tasty clients as Sony, AT&T and Pizza Hut. He is native to Chicago and works mainly in NY. As a teenager he was inspired by the constant presence of Normal Rockwell’s artwork in “The Saturday Evening Post.” In fact his whole history is laid out in some very informative cards scattered through out the exhibition, which is written in a tone somewhat specific to the the land of Tanglewood:
In partnership with 3D animator Brian Hoard, Smith’s animations again took on volume, and pieces like “The Amazing Elwood” began to transcend his “particular technique.” Smith wrote the film’s narrative, recorded the main character’s voice, and added sound effects to a rough Quicktime program before Hoard finished the piece in Maya. In addition, he has created most of the music for his animations using GarageBand. Oh, the wonders of technology when placed in the service of true vision.
The Norman Rockwell Museum always has a tradition of teaching art to others, and when I visited on Saturday there was a short screening and demonstration. I made a lovely zoetrope that I plan to animate in AfterEffects when I have time. Not only could kids give paper and pen a try, but someone conjured up an entire Cyntiq and Elwood personally stood by and helped anyone who asked. This dedication to animation can be found in his friends as well. Elizabeth Buttler, (illustrator / Inside-Out Boy) also had some of her claymations on display. There was just one sequence of these 12x12x1 inch clay frames on display but she assured me that there was a whole garage-full at home.
Smith’s comics are prolific, childish, and smart. Sometimes they center around a singular person’s absurdity, while others are carnivals of communities gone mad. When a young aspiring tween girl asked for advice about animation, Elwood spoke about how you can always find free resources to teach yourself. There was a helpful Powerpoint presentation with some links and he promoted teaching your-self tutorials at 6 am (how early!) Elwood Smith constantly pushes himself forward, working even for tailors, and the result is a splash of color and ink that anyone can enjoy.